Wed, Aug 15, 10:24am by Staff Writer
There are only three rounds remaining in the 2018 NRL season before finals begin, with the top eight far from settled.
Brisbane Broncos versus South Sydney Rabbitohs
Thursday, 16 August 2018 at 7.50pm AEST at Suncorp Stadium
The Broncos have lost two on the trot and need a win against Souths on Thursday night to get their season back on track.
The home side are $2.45 underdogs at Sportsbet, while the visiting Bunnies are $1.56 favourites.
After defeating the Melbourne Storm 30-10 in round 21, the Bunnies went down 18-14 to the Sydney Roosters on Friday night, in a match they could have won had a few bounces of the ball gone their way.
The Broncos are inside the top eight by just a game, with the Wests Tigers hot on their heels.
The Bunnies have lost their past six matches against the Broncos, including the round eight meeting between these two sides by a 24-20 score line in Sydney.
On that night it was Corey Oates and Darius Boyd that tore apart a fragile Souths defence, with both scoring a try and running for over 150 metres.
Since then Souths ran off a nine-match winning streak, while the Broncos up-and-down play is underlined by their 34-30 loss against the Cowboys last round after conceding three tries in the final 17 minutes.
It is a crucial time of the season for Brisbane and with speculation rife that coach Wayne Bennett will leave the club at season’s end, his charges will surely want to put in a good performance for the veteran coach.
Best bet- Brisbane Broncos to win at $2.45
Penrith Panthers versus Newcastle Knights
Saturday, 18 August 2018 at 3pm AEST at Penrith Stadium
The Panthers are the comeback kings of the National Rugby League, winning their past three matches after trailing at half-time in each of their past three games.
They are short-priced $1.27 favourites at Sportsbet when they host the Newcastle Knights on Saturday, who are $3.80 outsiders.
Penrith’s 17-16 comeback win in round 22 against the Gold Coast Titans did not come easy for them, as they needed the final pass of the game to result in a try for them to feature in an extra period.
After 86 per cent goal kicker Nathan Cleary missed a regulation shot at goal to win the match, he redeemed himself in golden point slotting the winning one-pointer in the 84th minute.
Wins against the Sea Eagles, Raiders and Titans has pushed Penrith into the top four, but whether or not they are the beneficiaries of a kind draw, or are a genuine contender remains to be seen.
Newcastle will be without five-eighth Connor Watson for another week as the Knights take a conservative approach with his groin injury.
Kalyn Ponga has apparently recovered well from travel to North Queensland and New Zealand and will play on the weekend.
James Maloney is a scratch for Penrith after scans reveal the New South Wales origin number six has suffered a grade two medial ligament injury. He will miss the remaining three weeks of the home and away season, but is known for his resilience and despite this being a six-week injury, it would not surprise if he returned for finals.
The Panthers are most likely to shift utility Tyrone May into the halves to partner Nathan Cleary and bring Wade Egan back from reserve grade onto the interchange.
These two sides last met in round 10 this season where the Panthers were 11-point winners, 29-18.
Penrith can’t be trusted with a big starting handicap and the loss of Maloney could throw up from problems than it solves.
Best bet- Newcastle Knights to cover 12-point handicap at $1.90
Wests Tigers versus St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday, 18 August 2018 at 5.30pm AEST at Leichhardt Oval
The ‘eighth wonder of the world’ will be showcased once again this season as the Wests Tigers host St George on Saturday afternoon.
The ninth-placed Tigers are $1.81 favourites at Sportsbet to continue their winning run, as they look to a shock finals appearance.
By contrast, the Dragons are playing their worst footy of the season after slumping to a 40-4 loss to the bottom-placed Parramatta Eels. They are $2 underdogs to win this match.
These two sides met in round 18 in Wollongong where a tired-looking Dragons side post Origin were flattered by a final score of 20-16 in a loss to the Tigers.
Robbie Farah turned back the clock in a man-of-the-match performance as Wests raced out to a 20-6 lead before holding off the fast-finishing Dragons.
St George is stuck in a rut at the moment and are without five-eighth Gareth Widdop who suffered a dislocated shoulder and is expected to miss until finals.
Ben Hunt has come under the microscope in recent weeks, as the Queensland representative player took no runs in the sides loss to the Eels.
St George has slipped to fifth on the ladder, a game outside the top four and another loss here could have them as low as seventh by the end of the round.
We are all aboard the Tigers train and with this match at Leichhardt, a big crowd will be on hand and the form side should be too good.
Best bet- Wests Tigers to win at $1.81
Manly ($1.49) should be too good for a Gold Coast ($2.65) side that has won just three times on the road all season.
Melbourne ($1.20) will be looking to avoid three straight losses when they host Parramatta ($4.60) for the first time since they beat the Eels 18-16 in last season’s finals.
Cronulla ($1.40) will be glad that North Queensland ($3) forward Jason Taumololo is suspended when the two sides meet in the Shire on Saturday night.
The Dogs ($2.45) are not without a chance against the on-again-off-again Warriors ($1.56) at ANZ Stadium.
The top-of-the-table Roosters ($1.43) should take care of a Canberra ($2.85) side that has been lacklustre on both sides of the ball for some weeks now.
NRL Round 23 Odds – Sportsbet
Brisbane $2.45 v South Sydney $1.56
Manly $1.49 v Gold Coast $2.65
Melbourne $1.20 v Parramatta $4.60
Penrith $1.27 v Newcastle $3.80
Wests Tigers $1.81 v St George $2
Cronulla $1.40 v North Queensland $3
Canterbury $2.45 v New Zealand $1.56
Canberra $2.85 v Sydney $1.43
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